What do you do when you only have 4 days in a city as rich in culture as Kyoto – you go hard and don’t stop till you drop!
I seriously think we came home from this leg of the trip needing a holiday more than we did when we left but we had a super fantastic time (and let’s be honest... it’s not like we were coming back to stressful, run-off our feet jobs!).
Just as much a highlight as all the amazing places we saw was the incredible breakfast our hotel had each morning! There really is no better way to start a day of sightseeing than with freshly baked croissants, apple danishes, cherry danishes, cinnamon scrolls about 5 different types of bread rolls all from their very own in-house bakery – not to mention the amazing freshly squeezed orange juice and hot chocolates!
So once we had eaten ourselves to the size of elephants and wrapped up in our winter woollies we would head out with our Lonely Planet guide tucked firmly under our arm for a day of jam packed sightseeing.
With too many places to mention I will only comment on our favourites. In the number one spot would have to be Kin-Kakuji - the Golden Pavilion. Pretty much everyone who goes to Kyoto inevitably visits this spot but we somehow managed to fluke a particularly quiet afternoon which meant we could appreciate the beauty of the temple without gosling for a space to stand. We were also lucky enough to arrive at the perfect time for taking photos with the sun reflecting off the gold and into the water. Magic!
Making it into 2nd place would have to be Gin-Kakuji – the Silver Pavilion for its stunning Japanese Zen gardens. Again we somehow managed to fluke a really quiet morning with practically no one else there (the sub zero temperature might have had something to do with it) and enjoyed meandering around the serene gardens stopping every few steps for some photos. We were particularly chuffed to time it just right to see one of the grounds keepers making some alterations to one of the amazing sand gardens – watching him etch the lines these gardens are famous for was almost mesmerising as he meticulously swept perfectly symmetrical (almost hypnotic) lines into the sand!
In a tie for 3rd place are Kyomizudera on the hillside of Kyoto and Todai-ji in Nara which is home to the massive 16m Buddha. Adding to the beauty of Kyomizudera was the snow that was falling while we were there – probably only rivaled by what it must look like in Spring when it’s in full cherry blossom bloom. The views over Kyoto were pretty spectacular which of course meant a great number of photos were taken.
After debating whether or not to make the effort to go out to Nara we were mighty pleased we did and thought the giant Buddha was as impressive in real life as the Lonely Planet made it out to be! The Buddha lives inside the world’s largest wooden building which to be honest was just as impressive as the Buddha itself! Again a great number of photos were taken! The deer that stroll around add a bit of character – thankfully we chose not to buy food for them as those that did were harassed by them for the rest of the day!